Operation Silver A: a new two-part drama looks at the ill-fated mission of Czech paratroopers during WW II

Shooting of the film 'Operation Silver A', photo: Simona Schejbalova, http://rajce.idnes.cz

In today's Arts: a new TV drama looks at the ill-fated mission of Czech paratroopers during WW II. We also talk to the organisers of an awards ceremony and exhibition recognising the country's best graphic prints.

Shooting of the film 'Operation Silver A',  photo: Simona Schejbalova,  http://rajce.idnes.cz
Film director Jiri Strach has made a name for himself in the Czech Republic with numerous projects but his latest, Operation Silver A, is being regarded as his most ambitious to date. The two-part TV film - produced by public broadcaster Czech TV - is named after a famous mission in the 1940s when Czech British-trained officers were parachuted into Nazi-occupied Boehmia and Moravia to organize sabotage missions coinciding with the planned assassination of Protectorate ruler Reinhard Heydrich. Following Heydrich's death, all officers operating clandestinely on Czech soil were eventually exposed and killed. The script based on those tragic times was written by the husband & wife team of Lucie Konasova and Josef Konas. They did extensive research on the period - and felt that Operation Silver A needed to be told with respect to new details including an ill-fated love triangle that had not widely been known. I spoke with the screenwriting duo this week. Lucie Konasova:

"The story is based on real people, heroes, who died for their country and so writing the script wasn't easy. I was working on it, one evening, looking at the photographs of those involved in the underground resistance, when I began to feel physically ill. I had been going through the documentation, namely a book by amateur historian Jaroslav Cvancara, and suddenly I felt that I was digging through these peoples' graves. I suddenly felt it wasn't right. Looking at their photographs I got a glimpse of what it must have felt like to be condemned, sentenced to death.

"I gave up all work on the script for a week. Now, with the final result on the screen I know it was correct to keep at it, to show that these people's good sides but also even their flaws. While 'politically incorrect' in some respects, I think it was important to get below the surface to show that these people were real."

Shooting of the film 'Operation Silver A',  photo: Simona Schejbalova,  http://rajce.idnes.cz
Screenwriters Lucie and Josef Konas admit they had to simplify the story on some details but they stress that 80 or 90 percent of the plot is not fiction but based on fact. The story centers on one of the parachutists and his romantic involvement with two married women, best friends who lived in the east Bohemian town of Pardubice where the British-trained parachutists hid. Through their connection to operation commander Alfred Bartos, they as well as their husbands and others - were drawn deeper into the Resistance, a decision that none regretted on a patriotic level but which in the film - as in real life - ends in their utter humiliation and defeat.

Shooting of the film 'Operation Silver A',  photo: Simona Schejbalova,  http://rajce.idnes.cz
Regarding Bartos, he was a womanizer but he also no doubt had a great measure of appeal. In the film he is portrayed as confident in his mission, although he realizes soon enough there will be no escape. Eventually, after all others have been arrested and await their executions, he too is routed out by the Gestapo, and in the end chooses to kill himself rather than be taken alive. Scriptwriter Josef Konas:

"I was interested in Bartos from a military perspective: I thought 'What was he thinking'? His self-confidence must have been incredible. Here he was in hiding, in a place where everyone knew him, yet he was sure nobody would rat him out... Then, he had these romantic affairs that evidently put the whole mission at risk, including his compatriots' planned assassination of Heydrich. I didn't understand it, but I found this all this intriguing."

Jiri Dvorak played the part of Alfred Bartos in Operation Silver A, a role he fully enjoyed.

"The thing I liked about the script is that all the characters are very real. In school, under communism, we used to learn that all those in the resistance were heroes and they were always flawless. If they had any faults these were never mentioned. The role was interesting precisely because there were many different aspects to discover. Was he a hero, wasn't he? In real life, Bartos was the most experienced officer and managed to stay alive for four months, although he knew he was certainly doomed. The part was a challenge."

At first glance, Operation Silver A is one of the more visually rich TV productions produced in the Czech Republic in recent years, something stressed by director Jiri Strach, who has credited public broadcaster Czech TV with a greater commitment to better funded projects. The commitment allowed for a more complex cinematic approach: wider-ranging camera work, more authentic lighting, more detailed props and costumes than ever, and Mr Strach has called Operation Silver A one of the best films he's been lucky to work on yet.

Association awards annual prize for best graphic prints

In other arts news, this week also saw the awarding of the prestigious prize awarded to the country's best graphic work. Boasting four main categories, including a popular student section, the awards have been run for more than a decade by civic association Inter-Kontakt-Grafik in collaboration with Prague city hall. Jury member Simeona Hoskova told Radio Prague more:

"Graphic Work of the Year" is an event which is truly unique, even in the context of international competitions. What is interesting is that our competition covers all kinds of work, formats ranging from very small prints to giant: there are miniature prints, and original books. The competition also awards special prizes for most popular techniques, namely linocut, gravure printing and computer graphics which, of course, gained tremendous popularity in the 1990s. Computer-designed graphic art is very attractive and challenging."

More than 200 works are now on display at Prague´s Clam-Gallas Palace as part of the competition and will be on view until 1 April. This year's main winner is Mikolas Axmann, whose work is large format and features an explosion of line and shape in black and white.

Since 1995, the "Graphic Work of the Year" competition has included the Vladimir Boudnik Prize, named after the famous Czech printmaker. Jiri Valoch, who chaired the jury of the Boudnik Prize, told Radio Prague about Boudnik's far-ranging influence in the 50s and 60s.

"He was the first Czech graphic artist who was recognized in the 1950s. He dedicated himself to street art, but he was also the first graphic artist to come up with pure, abstract prints. In the same period he created a whole series of very original works, which were incomparable to anything that any other Czech artist was doing at the time."

This winner of the Vladimir Boudnik prize this year is seventy-year-old Prague-based artist Lubomir Pribyl. His work features receding and "minimalist" grid-like forms also in black & white.